United Nations officials will soon release their plan to improve the developing world's access to lifesaving drugs. At best, their recommendations will prove ineffective. At worst, they could endanger millions of lives.

It didn't have to be this way.

The panel could have made significant progress towards its goal by building on decades of work done by groups like the World Health Organization. These past efforts, which brought public organizations and governments together with private healthcare companies, have prevented millions of premature deaths.

Instead of replicating that cooperation, officials on the UN's High-Level Panel on Access to Medicines want to pit these groups against one another in an attempt to assign blame for global health crises. Such finger-pointing isn't merely counterproductive; it's the worst kind of politics.

Scapegoating patents for the developing world's drug shortages is dishonest. The vast majority of drugs on the WHO Essential Medicines List aren't protected by patents -- they are available globally in generic form. Yet hundreds of millions of patients do not receive them.

International efforts to slow the spread of disease have been underway for well over a century. In 1902, the United States was the leading force behind the Pan American Health Organization, an early public health agency. Such initiatives are based on a shared recognition among nations that global health is a cooperative enterprise including governments, businesses, non-profit research centers, volunteers, medical experts, and more. No single person or entity can combat disease alone.

The United States has been a critical partner in combating disease around the world. In 2012 alone, the US committed nearly twice as much funding to the WHO than any other member state, with contributions totaling over $110 million.

Private organizations have done their part too. Last year, America's biopharmaceutical companies spent almost $60 billion on research. These firms are currently developing more than 5,000 medicines for everything from HIV/AIDS to cancer and diabetes.

Working together, non-profit academic centers, drug companies, and governments, can ensure such research continues. This cooperation is vital -- a third of people in the developing world still lack dependable access to medicines considered "essential" by the WHO.

Yet the UN's latest effort to address this problem drives a wedge between these sectors.

The UN Secretary General specifically tasked the panel with "remedying the policy incoherence between the justifiable rights of inventors, international human rights law, trade rules and public health in the context of health technologies."

The implication is that intellectual property rights are barriers to expanding medical access. For the developing world to gain access to the medicines it needs, the assumption seems to be, drug firms must sacrifice their patent protections, which prevent other firms from making knock-off copies of medicines for a limited time.

Scapegoating patents for the developing world's drug shortages is dishonest. The vast majority of drugs on the WHO Essential Medicines List aren't protected by patents -- they are available globally in generic form. Yet hundreds of millions of patients do not receive them.

In too many cases, barriers to treatment reflect the poor infrastructure and misguided policies of many emerging economies.

Poor storage facilities around the world lead to significant waste of pharmaceutical supplies, driving up costs astronomically. In India, a quality-control study followed a series of vaccine vials through the supply-chain delivery process. The study found that 76 percent of the vaccines were rendered useless because they were inadvertently frozen while being stored in substandard storage facilities.

Abandoning our IP system will do nothing to address such problems. However, it would upend the protections that incentivize firms to develop new drugs and ensure those medicines get to patients quickly and reliably.

Global health organizations, individual nations, and medical innovators all have a vital role to play in overcoming the barriers to medical access around the world. The High-Level Panel on Access to Medicines was an historic chance to forge such a partnership. Instead, the UN deliberately drove these parties apart, sacrificing global health for petty politics.

Douglas E. Schoen has served as a pollster for President Bill Clinton. He has more than 30 years experience as a pollster and political consultant. He is also a Fox News contributor and co-host of "Fox News Insiders" Sundays on Fox News Channel at 7 pm ET. He is the author of 13 books. His latest is "Putin's Master Plan" (Encounter Books, September 27, 2016). Follow Doug on Twitter @DouglasESchoen.